Tips to Get More Out of Your Work Day (Without Working Longer or Harder)

So, we’ve got our day all set. Schedules are fixed, goals written, tasks assigned, and so forth. Then something happens — or doesn’t happen — and everything seems to spiral out of control. We get next to nothing done.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

We’ve all been through days like this.

We’ve also been through lots of days when we seem to be working like horses but not moving an inch forward. We end up staying at the office beyond office hours or spending a sleepless night working on tasks we brought home to finish.

We don’t have to go through these situations anymore. We can make our workday more productive without putting in extra hours of hard work.

Here are a few tips to do that:

Tips to Get More Out of Our Workday

1. Build habits to start a routine

Take control of your day right at the very beginning. Build habits that can start a routine that signals your brain that it’s time to start working.

Developing a routine can also help us avoid procrastination. With a clear set of activities to get our day rolling, we lessen the tendency of putting things off.

2. Clear desk, clear mind

One good work habit we can develop is organizing our desk and our inbox first thing in the morning. This sets our mind in gear and gives it a signal that it’s time to switch to work mode.

We need only a few minutes — no longer than 30 — to prep our desks and check our inboxes.

When we maintain a clean workspace, we can focus better and avoid distractions. The same goes with our inboxes. Once we’ve cleared our inbox, we can focus on more important tasks.

Checking our email first also allows us to make quick changes to our day’s schedule if necessary.

3. Don’t overdo the to-do list

Having a mile-long to-do list isn’t a sign of productivity. It actually lessens productivity and even causes anxiety.

We should keep our to-do lists short, specific, realistic. We must limit the items on the list to tasks that and require urgent action.

We shouldn’t cram all the goals we have for the month in our day’s lists. One thing we can do to make our lists more manageable is to break it down to monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

Preferably, we should write this list the night before. We’d sleep better and lessen time wasted in the morning.

4. Set priorities straight

We can increase productivity by starting with the most important tasks.

High priority tasks need to be finished as soon as possible. We should accomplish these in the morning. Focusing on them gets them out of the way faster.

Low priority tasks can be done last or the next day if time doesn’t permit so.

When we’ve accomplished all our goals for the day and we still have time and energy left, we can start working on non-urgent tasks that we’ve set for the next day’s work.

5. Monotask not multitask

Multitasking may be possible, but it definitely isn’t efficient.

We’re just humans. We have limited amount of cognitive bandwidth. This makes it impossible for us to multitask with efficiency.

When we toggle between tasks, we end up making mistakes. We take more time to finish a task and this decreases our productivity.

We can get things done faster and more efficiently by focusing on one task at a time.

6. Delegate less important tasks

Delegating tasks increases effectiveness and efficiency in the entire organization and not just our personal productivity.

When we delegate less important tasks, we lighten our workload, which enables us to function at peak performance. We also free up our time for tasks that need priority.

Furthermore, we help other employees grow when we assign tasks to them. We just need to make sure that we’ve clarified our expectations and set an appropriate deadline.

7. Learn the art of saying “no”

If you’ve already got your plate full, say no politely.

If you can’t give a task your 100%, don’t take it at all.

Learn the art of saying “no,” especially to unreasonable requests. We don’t have to help every single colleague who’s struggling to meet their deadlines. We don’t need to accept every project our superior assigns to us.

When we work beyond our capacity, our efficiency is severely affected. Not only are we unable to finish additional projects, but we’re also unable to properly manage the ones we’re currently working on.

8. Keep meetings few and short

We can be more productive by eliminating unnecessary meetings. If it’s something that can be discussed or handled through email or by phone, then there’s no need to call for a meeting.

For issues that necessitate meetings, limit them to just around 30 minutes. Set a desired outcome, and strive to get a resolution as soon as possible.

We should avoid long and tedious meetings. They waste our time and decrease organizational effectiveness.

9. Take advantage of technology

Technology is constantly evolving. More tools are now available to help businesses grow. We can use them to streamline our efforts and automate tedious work.

We can utilize platforms for project management, employee management, or client scheduling. We can use recruiting software for our hiring process or a 360 review software for gathering performance feedback.

We can use group chats or group messaging which can minimize email exchanges and lessen the need for meetings.

10. Social media

While technology can be used to boost our productivity, it can also have the opposite effect. Social media is a major source of distraction that results to significant decrease in work quality.

To get more out of our day, we must turn off notifications for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media accounts.

But what if we work on social media? Well, we can just log out of personal accounts to keep our focus on the ones we manage.

11. Take a break, move around

The human brain has alternating periods of high-frequency activity and lower-frequency activity. When we’re working hard, our brain functions in high brain wave states for 90 minutes. Beyond this time, it switches to lower brain wave frequencies for a break.

Hence, we are advised to take 20-minute breaks in between 90-minute work cycles to optimize our productivity.

We don’t always have time for 20-minute breaks though, right? Well, even just a five-minute break can help reset our attention span.

We can stretch our legs or merely sit back and relax. We can take a brief walk to the pantry to grab a cup of coffee. Five minutes away from work can already lift our mood and help us refocus.

We can choose to do whatever we want; the important thing is we take that much needed break.

12. Take a power nap

It seems counterproductive, but taking naps can really help us get more work done.

Naps are the most efficient way to boost brain function. They reduce stress and fatigue, improve our mood and our cognitive performance, and enhance our memory.

When we take a nap, we get an energy boost that gives us fuel to sustain productivity for the rest of the day.

We usually experience a dip in energy between 1 and 3 p.m., which may be the best time for us to take a power nap.

Work Smart, Not Hard

We can be productive without working ourselves to the bone. Following the tips above can help us work smart, not hard.